1 9 7 5 – 1 9 7 7 (USA)
48 x 30 minute episodes
“Who charms the crabs on Fisherman’s Wharf right out of their shells?”
In 1975 it was decided that MTM Enterprises would produce the second spin-off from the successful Mary Tyler Moore Show (Rhoda had been the first spin-off in 1974). Cloris Leachman would star in her own series and continue to play the character she so skilfully portrayed for five seasons on MTM, Phyllis Lindstrom.
Phyllis had been Mary’s giddy, pseudo-elegant landlady in The Mary Tyler Moore Show but was now widowed from her never-seen husband Lars (who left her penniless) and had moved to San Francisco with her 16-year-old daughter Bess (Lisa Gerritsen) to live with Lars’ mother Audrey (Jane Rose) and stepfather Judge Johnathan Dexter (Henry Jones) at 4482 Bayview Drive.
Phyllis soon found work as an assistant at Erskine’s Commercial Photography Studio, owned by Julie Erskine (played by Barbara Colby until her murder in August 1975 and then Liz Torres).
Leo Heatherton (Dick Schaal) was the dim-witted temperamental photographer who had been a guest star numerous times on MTM and was Valerie Harper’s (aka Rhoda) real-life husband at the time.
The second season format dropped Julie and Leo as Phyllis found work as a secretary at the San Francisco Board of Directors.
Caramine Caridi played Phyllis’ new boss Dan Valenti, Garn Stephens played Phyllis’ co-worker Harriet, and John Lawlor played the dim-witted supervisor Leonard Marsh.
Judith Lowry was introduced in the first season as Johnathan’s outspoken eighty-seven-year-old mother, Sally (Mother) Dexter who moved in with them. Phyllis and Bess were also still living with Johnathan and Audrey.
Mother Dexter was married during the second season to a ninety-one-year-old man. Bess also married Dan’s nephew Mark toward the end of the series. Mark and Bess also moved in with Johnathan and Audrey.
A few tragedies embraced the Phyllis set from the beginning. After only the third episode had been filmed, actress and comedienne Barbara Colby (who played Julie) was murdered by gang members in a drive-by shooting in West Los Angeles.
Judith Lowry (who played Mother Dexter) died in December 1976, a few weeks before the wedding episode was telecast. Episodes were filmed earlier then, so Mother Dexter would appear almost until the last episode.
The show began with great ratings and reviews (the #6 show of the 1975-76 season) but ratings declined in the second season and the show was abruptly taken off the air after only 48 episodes.
Cloris Leachman passed away on 27 January 2021, aged 94.
Judge Johnathan Dexter
Barbara Colby (1)
Liz Torres (2)
Sally “Mother” Dexter